Road to WOC #11: What the WOC 2021 course setters say

26. 5. 2021

Less than six weeks remain to the first WOC race day! Athletes but also organizers are
hurrying to get ready to the start line, the course setters however are already close to the
finish line. How do the TV requirements influence the courses? And how do you test the
course for the world elite athletes if you aren‘t one? Run through the next part of Road to
WOC together with our course setters!

Sprint: Daniel Wolf

What do you think makes the WOC courses unique?

I think that the uniqueness of WOC 2021 stems from the terrain choice and race combination.
Since the beginning we have claimed we want to go back to the roots of orienteering: to give
priority to the sport element of the races, offer superb terrains to the competitors even if it goes
along with more complicated logistics, less comfortable arenas with the lack of good signal. We
had no idea that the pandemic situation will force us to put even more emphasis on this then.
However, it gave us a unique opportunity to make the WOC stunning in the forests and also
look great on TV. Thanks to the pandemic situation, we also have the „full“ WOC format back.
So we offer a unique mix of all o-disciplines in seven days, each in a different terrain type. We
aim at setting the courses in a way that highlights this uniqueness, shows the potential of the
terrain and fits to our conception. Each of the races will be totally different.

Could you share with us the biggest challenges that the author of sprint courses usually
has to face?
Sprint course setting is a very specific discipline. It is neverending balancing and measuring of
the routes in a way that offers as many variants as possible. The courses need to put emphasis
on fast decision making, be as difficult as possible but at the same time fair. We are thus
discussing every single leg, control, passage width, map readability or plotting of various
situations. Besides, a city is a living organism. Every single visit, there is something new on the
map or something disappears. So we slightly move the controls all the time and thus we have to
balance the routes again and again. Until the courses are at the printing office, we are still fine
tuning them. And once they are printed, we will fine tune the cities to fit.

Sprint Relay, Relay: Radek Novotný

What do you need to add to the usual course setting routine to get the top level course?
I always want the courses to bring top experience as well as navigation challenge. When it
comes to a WOC level race however, you often need to moderate the ambition a little bit in
order to incorporate a number of requirements that such a course needs to meet. Like those of
the TV broadcasting. Keeping the race courses as inspirational as training ones and meet all the
requirements is the crucial challenge of a „world course“.

Middle: Martin Janata

What was your way to become a course setter?
In general, it was a natural development that made me discover another part of orienteering. My
club, which was Kotlářka Praha those days, organizes a 3-day event called Velikonoce ve
skalách every year and every other year other races. Hence, every hand was needed. Coming
to the WOC, one winter day I was skiing with my children and Dan Wolf called me saying that he
needs a course setter from a club in the region of Jizerské hory. And I told him: Why not? I am

Middle F: Michal Horáček

What is your criteria for the „right course“?

The basic criteria is whether or not I want to go and run it myself. I like demanding, varied
courses without boring passages. Simply, courses that amuse. I hope we managed to prepare
WOC 2021 courses of this kind.
When did you start with the first course drafts?
First drafts were already made a year ago but they were not any close to the final courses.

Long: Petr Karvánek

How long did it take you to set the courses? How is the final course actually made? What
needs to be done and how many times do you (or someone else) have to test the course
before it is finalized?

I swore I never again open the archives with all the versions I had presented to my opponents.
So you made me do it. In my archive sthere are about twenty different versions of the course
made by myself, two proposals by Dan Wolf and one by Radek Novotný.
The first one is dated 11/2019, the last one, version 21 saved on the encoded disc (I hope the
final one), is dated May, 14th 2021.
I estimate I worked on the courses about two times a week which makes about 150 days –
every time about three hours by the computer which is about 450 hours. Plus the hours spent in
the terrain. That was slightly less but it might be hundreds as well.
The main part is to understand the terrain morphology and use it so that the course makes
sense. For me as a masters orienteer (this year I turn 55) and moreover a person who never
was an elite runner, it is really a challenge to make my “masters mind“ switch to a completely
different setup which could create a course that is a real challenge for the elite athletes.
Absolutely honestly I admit that even though I have set a good number of courses (including
several Czech national championships), this is a completely different level. Sometimes, I felt I
am reaching my limits and I have to thank my opponents that we managed to get to the final
My fears of the TV requirements or other restricting criteria were false. Also the IOF comments
were always constructive and straight to the point.
You ask me about the testing, it would be rather amusing from my side. I am able to run some
speed on a flat track but the uphills and downhills are not my knees‘ thing any more. Therefore,
there were other guys. Dan Wolf tested the women‘s course. The men‘s was tested by Dan
together with David Procházka. They tested it by parts and then we engaged maths 🙂

Daniel Hubmann mentioned that the WOC terrains are one of the best playgrounds for an
orienteer. How much will they enjoy your playground?
Of course, this depends o the way you see it. Personally, doing my „strolls“ in the WOC terrains,
I really take delight in the landscape. I hope I am not too immodest but I think that even in the
Czech context, this terrain is really unique and some parts are trully magnificient.
I want to say that I honestly have no idea how much of the surroundings do athletes like Daniel
Hubman actually see during their race or whether they rather flow in their own corridor.
Anyway, I am quite certain that the race will present a physical challenge for everyone and wish
everybody to have enough stamina to cope with it all the way to the finish line.